Effects of chronic exposure to 12 saltwater on the endocrine physiology of juvenile American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). Academic Article uri icon


  • American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) habitats are prone to saltwater intrusion following major storms, hurricanes or droughts. Anthropogenic impacts affecting hydrology of freshwater systems may exacerbate saltwater intrusion into freshwater habitats. The endocrine system of alligators is susceptible to changes in the environment but it is currently not known how the crocodilian physiological system responds to environmental stressors such as salinity. Juvenile alligators were exposed to 12 saltwater for 5weeks to determine the effects of chronic exposure to saline environments. Following 5weeks, plasma levels of hormones [e.g. progesterone, testosterone, estradiol, corticosterone, aldosterone (ALDO), angiotensin II (ANG II)] were quantified using liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry. Compared with freshwater-kept subjects, saltwater-exposed alligators had significantly elevated plasma levels of corticosterone, 11-deoxycortisol, 17-hydroxyprogesterone, testosterone, 17-estradiol, estrone and estriol whereas pregnenolone and ANG II were significantly depressed and ALDO levels were unchanged (slightly depressed). On the one hand, saltwater exposure did not affect gene expression of renal mineralocorticoid and glucorticoid and angiotensin type 1 (AT-1) receptors or morphology of lingual glands. On the other hand, saltwater exposure significantly reduced plasma glucose concentrations whereas parameters diagnostic of perturbed liver function (aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase) and kidney function (creatinine and creatine kinase) were significantly elevated. Except for plasma potassium levels (K+), plasma ions Na+ and Cl- were significantly elevated in saltwater alligators. Overall, this study demonstrated significant endocrine and physiological effects in juvenile alligators chronically exposed to a saline environment. Results provide novel insights into the effects of a natural environmental stressor (salinity) on the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system and steroidogenesis of alligators.

published proceedings

  • J Exp Biol

altmetric score

  • 4.85

author list (cited authors)

  • Faulkner, P. C., Burleson, M. L., Simonitis, L., Marshall, C. D., Hala, D., & Petersen, L. H.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Faulkner, PC||Burleson, ML||Simonitis, L||Marshall, CD||Hala, D||Petersen, LH

publication date

  • July 2018